Wake Boats Guide: A Surf And Ski Vessels Handbook

Have you watched a hundred wake boarders cruise by on their cool boat while you sat on the beach in envy? Are you always wishing you knew more about the sport? Ready to do some research? Time to find your new hobby and make it happen! So, what’s popular in wake boats and wake sports boats these days? First, let’s go through some of the basics of water sports to make sure you have the right vessel in mind for the activities you want to use it for, and then explore some of the best new wakeboard and surf boats out there for 2022.

2022 ATX Surf Boats 24 Type-S wake surf boat. Photo via Blackbeard Marine in Kingston, OK.

Above: A 2022 ATX Surf Boats 24 Type-S wake surf boat. Photo via Blackbeard Marine in Kingston, OK.

Watersports Boats: Ski, Wakeboard and Surf Boats

All of the water sports in today’s boating world are exciting! There are new variations of traditional water sports and wake surfing coming out all the time as both the sport and the boats evolve. In my opinion, why not try them all and see what is most thrilling & exciting for you, right? All of these water sports can be done on any wakeboarding boat, surf boat or “crossover” boat, but some boats are better suited for specific niche wake sports than others.

Let’s take a look at the most popular types of wake sports in the world today.

Barefoot skiing

Barefoot skiing is water skiing behind a boat without your water skis, yes, this literally means that you’re barefoot water skiing. You travel faster than you would on ski’s and I would consider this quite a thrilling ride!

Wakeboarding

A water sport done while being towed behind a boat on a wakeboard. The goal is to jump from wake to wake, get air, do flips and have a blast!

Wake surfing

A water sport involving a board shaped like a surfboard, with no foot straps and ideally no rope. You use the rope to get up, similarly to a wakeboard, and then drop the rope and ride the wake like a real wave. Feels like surfing looks like surfing and is super fun!

Wake Skating

A water sport that broke off from wake boarding, with a similar design, but made with maple or fibreglass. Much like the wake surf, you are not bound to the actual board and are free to throw it around under your feet.

Knee Boarding

Being towed behind a boat, on a board with little knee slips, allowing you to cruise through the water like you’re on a wake board, but while being on your knees! Great for starters as you don’t have to worry about actually getting up out of the water (usually the hardest part).

Water Skiing

Most of us know what water skiing is – it’s just literally skiing behind a boat on the water with two skis! Pulled by a rope and strapped in just as if you were on the mountain, but usually it’s a warmer experience!

Single Ski

Water skiing using one ski (dominant foot in front of the other foot, also called “slalom skiing”).

The Best Wake Boats and Surf Boats

OK, so now that waters ports are your thing and you’ve undoubtedly made some awesome new friends that have taken you out on their boat a few times – it’s time to take matters into your own hands and buy that boat you’ve always dreamed of having! First you’ll have to ask yourself whether it makes sense to buy a new boat versus a used boat, based on your needs. New boats will obviously offer the latest wake sports technology onboard, but used boats can cost less and still be perfect for your needs. Let’s take a look at some of the options out there.

Choosing the best boat for wakeboarding and water skiing is tricky – there are many factors to consider when getting ready to purchase. Some of the most important factors include what your budget is, whether you are planning on using it in larger (ocean) or smaller (lake/river) bodies of water and most importantly, what you’re using the boat for. In this case, we will assume you’re purchasing your boat with the sole purpose of being able to do a variety of water sports.

With so many different options out there, it’s hard to nail down what will be best for you and YOUR needs. Depending on your sport, there are some key factors to consider when buying a boat. Each sport has different needs and there are better choices than others. Below we’ll cover the different categories of wake boats to guide you in your search to find the best boat option for you and get you shredding up on the water sooner, rather than later!

Waterskiing Boats

If you’re a water skier, then you’re in luck! For the most part, you can pretty much waterski behind any boat, however the smoother the wake, the better. What’s this mean for you? You’re options are basically endless. From jet boats to boats with inboard engines to outboard engines, they will all work for you.

The optimal size for your boat will between 16 ft-26 ft. You will want to have some power in your engines to ensure you can get some good pull as you ride behind, a 150 HP engine will do you just fine. For water skiers its always better to have a lighter load on the boat, allowing for a smoother ride. The best rides are smooth and flat, with a small wake.

You’ll notice that there aren’t many water-ski-specific-boats. In today’s market – with wakeboarding becoming so popular, there has been a big movement towards crossover boats. Which basically allows for everyone to choose what tow sport they like and it can all be done on one boat. So, if you’re looking to water ski, I’d say go for the boat that you really like and that will be versatile to all your friends and family, because you have that power to be flexible as a water skier!

Wake Surfing Boats

Wake surfing has become quite popular recently, so popular that there are boats made specifically for this sport – wake boats. These boats are designed perfectly for wake surfing and have a function in the boat to change the type and size of wave the boat produces! Some of the most popular boats to talk about in the wake surfing world are:

  • Malibu 23 LSVSuper
  • Air Nautique G23
  • Tige Surf Boats
  • ATX surf boats
  • Supreme S240

Above: Check out our walkthrough video review and tour of a 2022 Supreme S240 wake boat – a luxury “value class” wake boat that not only makes an excellent entry-level boat for beginners, but also is a great platform for experienced wake surfers and boarders plus a comfortable boat for the whole family. 

Check out our Top 10 Water Skiing and Wakeboarding Boats article for more information on the boats above, and other surf boats and wakeboarding boats.

In the end, it just comes down to which one you think looks better! These boats aren’t just made for wake surfing, they allow for all the other sports as well. I’d say the best way to put it is that wake surfing is their bread and butter, but any tow watersport will work with these, and yes that includes tubing!

Wakeboarding Boats – let’s get specific

If wakeboarding is your thing, well then you must be a little more specific when choosing your boat. But get excited, because wakeboarding boats are probably some of the best-looking boats out there. Designed for entertaining, comfort and the best ride possible for wake boarders.

Hands down, the best boat to purchase for wakeboarding would be an inboard-powered or jet-powered ski boat, with a flatter hull, and ranging between 16 feet & 26 feet. With this type of boat, the engines are located underneath the hull, allowing for maximum protection for its riders. The flat hull provides for a perfect wake, its perfect to take our on smaller bodies of water, such as lakes and rivers.

Hulls with a flatter hull are not recommended to take out into the ocean, as they can’t take the chop from the waters as well as say a deep v boat. This is something to consider when purchasing if you plan on using your boat in the ocean. Generally speaking, boats used in the ocean need to have a deeper v hull than the standard wakeboard boat can offer. Although this is not always the case, its something that you should definitely look into before purchasing. Wakeboarders want to have the largest wake possible, with this being said, it’s important to have a boat that can generate that big wake as you’re cruising around.

These type of boats are designed with weight distribution mainly in the back, which naturally creates a larger wake. Shifting as many people as possible to the back of the boat is always a good option, however a proper hull & engine set up will do this for you if you buy accordingly.

If you’ve gone down the wakeboard boat route, then you’ve chosen a boat that will be versatile for all the other sports! You can tube, ski, board, party, cruise, whatever you want!

There are a few top brands that have kept a good name and reputation in the wake sports world. Some of the most popular being Tigé, Mastercraft, ATX, Nautique, Supra, Supreme, Centurion & Malibu to name a few.

Notable Wake Surfing Boats On The Market Now

  • Tige RZX and ZX models
  • ATX Type-S models
  • Centurion Ri230
  • MasterCraft X30
  • Moomba Outback
  • Supreme ZS252

Above: Another in-depth walkthrough boat review and video tour of Supreme’s new ZS252 wake boat which is sure to be a crowd pleaser in the wake surfing world. 

What’s the difference? Basically, you’re looking at price, and a bit at functionality. There are a few boats that are more functional than others, but for the most part you’re looking at price based on the quality of the boat and all the fancy bells and whistles that can be added to it. There are boats that are more versatile and there are boats that are more sport specific, however most can be crossovers across all the water sports!

Price: What Do Good Wake Boats Cost?

Boat prices are usually what they are because of the engines. If you have smaller engines, you can find more inexpensive boats, the larger the engines, the more expensive the boat. In addition to the engine, year, model & make all come in to play when looking at price fluctuations. If you are a newbie, there are some more affordable options that would be great starter boats. If it’s your first time owning a boat, it may be a good idea to get a used boat, which you can find some older used models for around $20,000.

If you’re planning on going all out and buying something new, you are looking at a starting price of about $55,000 and going up to $200,000 +. The fancier the boat, the higher the price tag. I’ve always heard that, the two best days of being a boat owner are “the day you buy it” and “the day you sell it”. Boats are a luxury and for the most part are expensive to buy and maintain, however they bring tons of fun to your life! If price is not a factor, get that beautiful boat with all the bells and whistles and a banging sound system, your friends and family will be forever thankful for you!

Accessorize Your Ride!

In addition to buying the actual boat, you will need to remember to purchase a few accessories and safety items to ensure your boat is fully equipped and ready to roll!

Boat Tower

If you’re boat does not come with a tower, but you plan on wakeboarding, you will definitely want to consider having one of these bad boys installed. They are necessary for a proper wake board experience.

Speakers

What’s a boat without some speakers? Not all of them come with speakers installed. You will want to get a good set for your boat, and make sure to blast those babies when you have someone in tow!
Boards- this is an obvious one, you’ll want to have whatever equipment needed for your desired sport.

Rope

How else will you and your friends get up? Make sure to get two, different sizes will become useful for you!

Rider Down Flag

In many jurisdictions it’s required by law that you use a little orange flag called a “Rider own Flag” in order to let other boaters know that you have a rider, somewhere close in the water. Even if it’s not required where you are, it’s highly recommended as a safety precaution to have on your boat and to use while people are in tow.
Helmets – Safety precaution, especially for kids, and adults doing crazy maneuvers.

Life vests

For all shapes and sizes. Remember, one size doesn’t fit all! If you have a smaller kid on board, you will want to make sure there is a well suiting life vest for them before sending them into the water!
Docking ropes & buoys- For tying up your boat when it’s not in use.

Trailer

Where do you plan on parking your boat? If you do not plan on renting a slip you will need a trailer to tow your boat to and from wherever you plan on using it!

Conclusion

You got all your information and now it’s time to hit your local boating store and make your purchase! Make sure to consider all factors before purchasing. What is your intended use for your boat? What bodies of water will you be using it in? What’s your budget? Upon answering these questions and reading this guide you should have a pretty good plan on what type of boat you will be purchasing! Get out on the water and enjoy the most exhilarating experiences of being a boat owner!

Editor’s Note: This article was originally published in September 2019 and was last updated in December 2021 to reflect new models.

Written by: Tatjana Chahine

Tatjana Chahine is USCG-licensed boat captain and writer who regularly contributes to boats.com, YachtWorld and Boat Trader. Originally from Los Angeles, California, she now resides in Nassau, Bahamas where she operates a Bahamas boat charter and excursion company that helps tourists visit the 700 islands & cays and experience the local culture. Bahamian-owned, the company partners with Bahamians for custom-tailored, guided tours and supports local businesses and community building efforts.

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